A Spirit That Will Not Die

Precious:  [Crying hysterically] Nobody loves me!

Ms. Rain: People do love you, Precious.

Precious: Please don’t lie to me, Ms. Rain! Love ain’t done nothing for me… but beat me… rape me… call me an animal! Make me feel worthless! Make me sick!

Ms. Rain: [Tears begin falling from her eyes] That wasn’t love, Precious. Your baby loves you. I love you!

“This is an institution of learning, ladies and gentlemen. If you can’t control it, how can you teach? Discipline is not the enemy of enthusiasm!” -Lean On Me

“You are NOT inferior! Your grades may be, your school may have been. But you can turn that around and make liars out of those bastards in exactly one hour when you take that test and pass it and win! So here’s what I want you to do. When you find your thoughts wandering, I want you to knuckle back down and concentrate. Concentrate! Remember what’s at stake and show them what East Side High’s all about: a spirit that will not die!” -Lean On Me

I’ve never been an avid movie watcher, but here lately, I’ve been watching movies that I feel I should see. In essence, Loman and I have a “bucket list” for movies that we’re working on watching. Many of these movies are those which expose the cruel realities of the world in which we live and while they’re extremely hard to watch, they are at the same time the means through which we are able to better understand the world around us. Just last night, Loman and I [with Nick towards the end providing witty commentary] watched “Precious.” I’d heard about the graphic nature of the film and knew that I wouldn’t be able to watch it on my own. So, who better to watch it with than one who is completely objective and somehow incredibly in tune with the desperate state in which so many are forced to live their lives each and every day. Today, I watched “Lean On Me” by suggestion of Dr. Gregg, my Instructional Technology professor from this past semester. While both films differ in many ways and may not seem to relate to each other at all, there is an overarching theme which resounds through the message of both films: A Spirit That Will Not Die.

I will spare revealing the intricate details of both movies for those of you who have yet to see them, but just know that these films are incredible works of art which deserve your attention. While “Precious” isn’t the kinds of film you’ll want to watch time and time again, “Lean on Me” lends itself to multiple viewings quite well as Mr. Clark is a character to admire who at the same time has many character flaws from which we can all learn.

As a future educator, I found myself drawn to the teachers in both of these films. In “Precious,” Ms. Rain is a teacher at an alternative school with students who have been expelled from their previous schools or those who have chosen to drop out for various reasons. She is a beautiful woman with an incredible heart for her students. Although she appears cold at first, she quickly becomes one of the most influential and striking teacher figures I’ve seen in a movie in quite some time. I admire her amazing compassion and the commitment she has for her job and her students. She pushes them beyond their comfort zones to excel and succeed in ways they never dream possible. Even when they choose to give up on themselves, she refuses to let them do so and it is this strength and vivacity which resonates so deeply with me. In many ways, I can see myself in her while at the same time seeing many aspects of Loman’s teaching style. Ms. Rain requires her students to make the decision to come to school every day themselves. Her students are aware of her classroom rules and are disciplined when they fail to follow them. As the film progresses, though, it is clear that students gain an impregnable force field of respect for Ms. Rain, just as I have seen with Loman and his students.  I can only dream that I will one day have and maintain such a perfect balance between what we refer to so often in our cohort as “strict/firm but caring.” It was so funny to me at one point in the movie, Ms. Rain brings Precious home with her and Loman made the comment that I wouldn’t be able to teach at an alternative school because he would come home to different students each night. I laughed at his insinuation because knowing myself, it doesn’t really matter where I teach, the Erin Gruell [teacher from “The Freedom Writers”] in me will inevitable exhibit a strong desire to help any student in any way that I can.

The individuals in “Lean On Me” are incredibly interesting to me. Mr. Clark, the principal is a man of extreme pride and determination. He does a lot for his students and transforms the school for which he works. However, the beauty of the film lies not only in the lessons that he teachers his students and the teachers who work for him, but even more so on the things he learns because of them. In many ways, Mr. Clark reminds me of the potential which Loman exhibits as a future administrator. While Mr. Clark has a host of character flaws, the truth remains that we all do. However, the powerful influence and the incredible turnaround which Clark brings to the school is what I see in the future for Loman. He, like Clark, has a spirit of drive, commitment, and compassion like none I’ve ever met. When it all boils down to it, this spirit which keeps them moving forth and invested in their work is in fact a spirit that will not die.

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